Dealing with PTSD: Confronting one’s Demons

Dealing with PTSD: Confronting One’s Demons

We have a love affair with our suffering, created by the very attempt to overcome it. It is this movement of wishing to solve; of insisting to understand, that disconnects us from our emotional reality and thereby contributes to its continuation.

It is our continuous ‘efforting’ itself that is counterproductive. This attempt by thought, to fix or cure, is where the root cause of our confusion lies.

Through our practical education we are so accustomed to ‘doing something’ to get results; to expend energy and effort to achieve something, and by doing so, we have assumed the idea that ’emotionally’ this is equally applicable.

And there is where we go wrong!

The Movement of Time and Effort and Dealing with PTSD

Effort implies an objective towards something and a movement away from ‘what is’. When we move away from ‘what is’ through thought, we are not addressing the actual present which is where the pain and its resolution lies.

Why does it seem that therapy can take forever? Because this is one of the misunderstood fundamentals that needs to be addressed, firstly in the cognitive way and, secondly in practice.

When addressing a ‘stuckness’, an emotion and its physical pain; can you meet it without moving away from it?

Treating PTSD: Negation as Key to Breaking Patterns

To neither reject nor accept it, which means to negate involvement with any kind of thought whatsoever. To negate blame, guilt, self-reproach, shame, embarrassment, pride, self-righteousness, self-pity and such like. To negate the effort to be somewhere else; to negate a becoming better, or some form of spiritual interpretation, and also to negate to accept, to indulge or to drown in that emotion.

Which means that you are absolute present to ‘what is’ however ugly or painful that reality might appear to be. And from then on in that state of meeting your emotional residue, through negation of thought, you are actually building up the capacity to contain your pain, and hence the processing of it occurs.

Doing Less is More in Awareness

It is not about you doing something; it is about learning to disengage from reacting to your emotions and being present in awareness.

And when awareness acts without further build-up through reaction and thus identification, your past emotional residue ceases to impact on the present.

If you really get this at a very deep, fundamental level, you can move through complex trauma fairly rapidly.

In which ways are you trying to overcome your trauma and how does it prove to be unproductive for you? Leave your comment here below.

It is the ending of time and the unbiased meeting with one’s own darkness, that opens up a doorway to beauty.

In which ways has attempting to ‘overcoming’ your trauma become unproductive for you? Leave your comments here below.

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Comments

  1. Angela  September 17, 2017

    Totally agree. Except that no amount of awareness, facing pain can sometimes stop a person being overwhelmed and disassociating.

    reply
    • Roland  September 17, 2017

      Hi Angela. Facing one’s pain is indeed where it start and it is often an unfolding process.

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      • Hele  September 17, 2017

        What does that mean Roland? The word unfolding? What does an unfolding look like? It sounds like you are describing “sitting with your pain” that too makes no sense to me. It’s pain without memory. Either the hurt happened when I was too young or more likely, dissociation blocked the memories. So sit with it and what cry? Being confused? No understanding brings that. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be sitting with . If I negate everything then what is going on?
        Signed … beyond confused

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        • Roland  September 18, 2017

          It is a mixture of sitting with and allowing what presents itself to be seen through. I think it would help if we are aware that healing from trauma is process that moves alongside our capacity/containment of what we can hold at a given moment and would include; amnesia, dissociation, early life cell-memory. With negation I mean to be able to observe without further reacting to what you are observing (it is a tough one I agree) – then healing becomes a by-product of that very observation. There is no further ‘What?’ or ‘How to?’ from there which does imply to some sense of surrendering control (within the safety of your own boundaries/containment). Hope this helps.

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          • Hele  September 19, 2017

            Thank you for explaining that. I believe I am beginning to understand. If I can sit with the awareness without mental or physical effort and not get to caught up in it, then maybe it will lose it’s sting (a bit at a time)
            Thanks again for your insights.

  2. R  September 17, 2017

    Really good article, Roland. Thank you. It was a much needed reminder for me. we all seem to work so hard, all the time, even when it’s “only” to stay afloat!! Mindfulness in the form of yoga and meditation have been the breakthrough for me, but it’s still hard and scary for me to accept that some things I have to let happen, that I have no hope of controlling them and that I don’t need to. I stumble every day, I keep having to relearn that it’s safe. I seem to forget VERY easily. Thanks again! R

    reply
    • Roland  September 17, 2017

      Hey R. Thanks for the feedback. It is not an easy concept to put into words. We do all have to keep reminding ourselves of some core insights till we fully resonate with the truth of them.

      reply
  3. Gina  September 17, 2017

    Wow. I’ve often thought about reactions – and how mine have changed throughout the years… but I’ve never entertained the idea of just not responding and then that leading to the whole process of trying to “fix” what gets broken (or the things of the past ) but I totally see what you are saying here. I don’t however, know what one is to do with the emotional residue from the events that have happened — because even the body has muscle memory— I’m in EMDR right now. I often will get a headache or a pain in a part of my body while processing the memory chain. It will go away but something triggers it. So I guess I see things from a different perspective actually being in therapy for trauma. But you make a damn good point. When does it end?

    reply
    • Roland  September 17, 2017

      Hi Gina. The act of attention is actually very hard work. The more so when we are dealing with ’emotional residue’ as the conscious mind habitually reacts towards it. It is this staying with ‘what is’that makes the energy invested in one’s past flow into one’s state of awareness. In the end energy is energy. It either fragments or integrates.

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      • Gina  September 17, 2017

        Very true – I suppose I never really thought of it like that. It’s burdensome. I’ve been in therapy for (gosh this is sad to say) 25 years. I have just been doing EMDR for the past year. They just now have discovered the PTSD – and I am certain of the dissociation. To a point – I find things that I didn’t know I wrote- but for the most part, I’m just me. I do have several different characteristics, however. I guess one would say I’m multidimensional . I’m a very different type of person. Few people actually know me well. I think that’s why I’ve been single so long – that and I push people away 99% of the time. But I do understand that its energy – and it matters how we utilize it. I wish I could get your information, however, I am on a fixed income – disabled and have a hard time as it is. I appreciate your material. I most definitely enjoy new ways to think.

        reply
  4. Rikko  September 17, 2017

    Mr Bal,

    Is there a way in all this healing to “safely” remember the things which caused our body/mind to disassociate in the first place that created PTSD/cPTSD and finally “throw out the trash?”

    reply
    • Roland  September 18, 2017

      Pls call me Roland. Healing is a process where you slowly build up containment to sit with the whole depth of your trauma/hurt. Once that happens all the pieces will fall into their place and either the unnecessary gets chucked out and/or the mind and the nervous system finds integration. I think if we keep that awareness that it is a process we can be more kind to ourselves and thereby assisting that very process.

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  5. Stephanie  September 17, 2017

    A very interesting article Roland, thank you. It is not the first time it has been suggested to me to allow the feelings. Easier said than done for a recovering alcoholic who began drinking as a way to cope with the trauma. Being triggered I am transported back to that time emotionally. I have repeated the same pattern throughout my life reliving the trauma emotionally and escaping by self medicating as the feeling is so intense it is unbearable and I want to die rather than feel it. I am using anything and everything to escape the awareness of the feeling, immersing myself in work, study, food, helping others, pills, therapy, painting, exercise, trying to run away physically or practically. I feel totally stuck even the life around me is going on, I split myself to engage in life but I am also living in the pain, if this makes any sense, therefore I never fully engage with the here and now. I feel trapped by this. I know this is something I must go through to heal and am intelligent enough to know that I am the only one who can do it otherwise I will never truly heal. I hope I have the strength and courage to do it. I am 46 now and would like this not to control my life any longer.

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    • Roland  September 18, 2017

      Hi Stephanie. It is indeed easier said than done. Healing trauma and bringing awareness to pain is arduous work. You are right that you are the one who has to do it though working with someone helps to hold you from escaping and keeps you accountable. One step at a time.

      reply
  6. Jan  September 17, 2017

    I am the mother of an adult sufferer of PTSD. I want so much to help my child, but at this point, therapy has failed her, and she has lost faith in other things offered by the mental health medical community. What can I do, as her parent, to offer support in meaningful ways?

    reply
    • Roland  September 18, 2017

      Sorry to hear that Jan. It is hard to see your loved ones suffer without being able to ‘solve’ it for them. It is her journey and she will have to come to that point of setting that intention to heal – no matter what. If talk-therapy hasn’t worked so far you might want to have a look into Cranio-Sacral Therapy and share that with her.

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      • Jan  September 18, 2017

        Thank you so much, Roland.

        reply
  7. Wanda  September 17, 2017

    Hi I have come a long way in terms of my C-PTSD the dissociation to the point if black out has past just by going through the seizures and movements. I used to be ashamed of them. Instead I now just let the movement just happen. The seizures are gone but from Time to Time the movements come. I am aware of my triggers I can always pinpoint where they come from I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone. But I am my own expert on my condition. I will go through periods of deep depression but I can do nothing to stop it. I had to stop therapy as it wasn’t working. The trauma processing doesn’t work ad I can’t stop numbing… but when I feel pain now I feel the pain. I don’t try to fight that anymore either. Talk therapy doesn’t work for me only to get my depression under control. It’s so odd how ptsd effects every part of one’s self. Including sugar levels etc. The flashbacks come and go. I have noticed the regression back to a small child. It’s very disturbing but I have let people see me like that. It is the hardest part letting others see me when I at my most vulnerable. I think I am on the right track. I can not take medicine for it as the effects are more severe. I also am on disability so no good therapy is covered by anyone. I am going out more and trying to make new connections but I am.so fearful. I push through the fear as best I can. Wishing all the best. Thank you for the new reading.

    reply
    • Roland  September 18, 2017

      Hi Wanda. Thanks for your lucid comment. Seems like indeed you have a come a long way. Keep going.

      reply
    • Gina  September 18, 2017

      Stephanie – I can relate to so much of what you have written. I’d rather do anything than deal with the feelings(and such) of the things that happened to me in trauma. I have been battling addiction since I was, well my “Career” with alcohol began at age 11 and I’m now 55 if this tells you anything. My stuff, for the most part, has morphed into compulsive shopping to keep from dealing with reality. I hate dealing with “what is”. I abhor it. I was a full-blown addict by the age of 18- hit my first major treatment (5 months ) @ 24 and it really saved my life but I have digressed. I still don’t do right sometimes, and it’s called “a better life through chemistry”. However, it’s a whole hell of a lot better than it used to be. I have to give myself that. I’m not taking 5-7 Norco at one time. I’m not passing out from the chemicals anymore. I have to take meds because I have chronic pain – and loads of the crap. My body is a wreck and then some as far as pain goes. But we must endure and live life. It’s the only one that was given — as far as I know. I will do my best to try and inspire someone and spread hope, kindness and progressive thought where ever I am given the chance despite my current curcumstances. This is what God put me here for — and the rest of us — to encourage our fellow man. Yes, I concur it is hard – but we have to be that much stronger and rise above that which is trying to suck us into mayhem and keep forging forward with good intentions. I think this is the answer that we seek. Helping someone less fortunate (or not) always makes me feel great iniside and I forget my plight for that period of time — You can do this. I believe in you. God can make a way —where there was nothing, if you but ask. Blessings and glorious peace.

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      • Jane  September 18, 2017

        I’m not convinced it needs to be hard – that’s possibly just a trick of the mind and belief system. Is it possible that your physical pain is an analog for your mental/emotional pain? If you’re still in so much pain and suffering, and avoidance, then how do you show up as a role model?

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        • Gina  September 18, 2017

          Well – I don’t think I believe in somatic pain. I have three ruptured disks, neuropathy – and fibromyalgia. That’s for starters. Believe you me – I don’t want to be in pain or anyone’s role model period. Not as far as that is concerned. I do believe, however, that trauma has a memory. I’m not certain of what you are saying – like I want to be in pain? It has taken my life. How or why would I want this? Makes no sense. You don’t know my history – or journey so how can you assume to know my pain origins? And if you didn’t know trauma is hard, on the psyche, the soul, and our emotional systems. It shapes who we are. I’m sorry I’m just not made to be that nonchalant. Things affect me, whether I like it or not- and believe you me, I don’t like it. I much rather be a non-sensitive, non-feelings droid.

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          • Jo  September 20, 2017

            Hi Gina. I couldn’t scroll past your comment because I too used to have the same mindset but all that changed when I realised just how much of my pain WAS trapped emotions but I hadn’t consciously known this. Of course it may not be the same for everyone and there are other causes too but I was amazed when during my most severe breakdown (when I had very severe physical symptoms) that I would be thinking I was getting upset about pain in my stomach for example only for me to then start crying about something that had happened in my childhood. In cases of somatic pain the symptoms are very real but physical tests don’t reveal a concrete diagnosis. Even befor this big breakdown I had been plagued by severe pain and other symptoms that would last months or years and then resolve only for me to develop something else. I had years of terrible daily headaches and face pain. I had years of ovarian pain, an overactive thyroid which mysteriously resolved itself in a few months. I had months of stomach pain that had me bent double – I believe pretty much most of them were due to the emotional stress I had suffered over the years. When I had the severe breakdown and I spent a long time in therapy and realising just how much my past had affected me but the trouble is you squash unresolved emotional stress it all down into your body/subconscious mind and then if too much time goes by you loose the connection to it. This is why it can surface as pain etc. I also use to get terrible burning in my skin yet there was nothing to see. My stepsister and Mum both suffer with fibro and back pain and both think too that a lot of their pain has an emotional, somatic cause . It is truly debilitating and the symptoms are real so please don’t interpret that to mean it’s your fault if your pain does have this cause too. My pain and mental state affected my greatly. I feel I lost years and years of my life but strangely enough – now I am a lot better I realise that the physical pain – even though it was awful – was in some ways easier to deal with than the psychological pain which began to emerge during my severe breakdown. For years my own anxiety/depression had hid behind these physical symptoms and I can honestly say that my mood was fine. I even remember my local pharmacist asking me if the thought my headaches could be masked depression as he had learnt all about somatic pain and I laughed at the idea. Now I realise that the emotional suffering in childhood had led my body and mind to be in fright and flight all the time and add on the stresses of life and still living subconsciously from the pain of my childhood meant my body began hurting all the time. The severest breakdown turned out to be my greatest gift. Like I say – this may not be you at all but the fact that you are on this site perhaps suggests that you are aware of or exploring the fact that you may have suffered trauma/abuse and I know from my own personal heLth problems that it can play havoc with the body. Interestingly when I was ill as a child was the time I felt the most loved which makes you wonder if that was what my subconscious was trying to achieve?! The trouble is is that the subconscious/psyche will survive/try to get its needs met in any way it thinks best and it can be on a different agenda to our logic/conscious mind!

          • Gina  September 21, 2017

            Jo – Thank you for sharing your experience – I do appreciate it. I’m so sorry that you have been through so much, and so many break-downs. I have had two or at least what I call my break-downs. I’ve been hospitalized twice for depression.

            I suppose the difference between us is that my symptoms do have a medical cause, and are recorded on MRI’s and other things. I cannot fully say that my issues are not making some of these things worse…. however, I am in therapy dealing – I do deal with my issues and I don’t stuff them. I never have when I learned that there was another way to live. I full well know that stuffing emotions leads to increased cortisol and this hormone wreaks havoc in the body.

            I’ll share with you what my psychologist shared with me that made all the difference in my recovery- “Our greatest challenge is to stop using the tools that we used in childhood to survive in adulthood – because this set of coping mechanisms no longer work for us they’ve become our symptoms”. I have an excellent physician of the mind now — and I’m so very grateful. God Bless.

  8. Dora  September 18, 2017

    Hello from Greece!
    In which ways has attempting to ‘overcoming’ my trauma become unproductive for me?
    The difficulty as I see it, lies in not identifying with the ‘poor me’. Helplessness being at the core, the Identification with it is my basic obstacle.
    And, I have seen it ‘being played’ around in various ways.

    In the word ‘Overcoming’, i fixate with that very thing I want to overcome.
    I want to have a clear sight of what I am. To know exactly what I am.
    Being open with the process, without calling it difficult, or easy, or anything (even PTSD, or any other diagnostical terms), not trusting my old friend (my mind) with all the quick answers, the blaming and everything.
    For me, the road starts from here.

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    • Roland  September 18, 2017

      Hello from Spain! Thanks for your comment. Well said.

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    • Jane  September 18, 2017

      Yes!! 🙂 Good day to you in beautiful Greece – I’d like to come and visit one day.

      reply
  9. Amanda  September 18, 2017

    Thank you for your insightful article. I completely agree with you that PTSD is a VERY complex disorder. I have followed the dialectical behavior therapy program and whilst it is has given me the tools for mindfulness, accepting our negative emotions, etc. it requires constant work which is so exhausting at times. It’s all fair and well to use your cognitive skills and practice them daily, but some days it all gets too much.

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    • Roland  September 18, 2017

      Welcome. Yes CBT or DBT can feel a bit like occupational therapy at times. Change or healing is really a by-product of being fully attentive and by having the capacity to ‘sit’ with what is. The moment you are the ‘doer’ by attempting to fix, change or try to think positively you are actually reacting to and avoiding ‘what is’ which will turn out to be counter-productive.

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      • Jane  September 18, 2017

        Funny you say this. It just occurred to me a couple of days ago that if you “want” to release something, then that is another layer of resistance. The wanting to release is another form of resistance if that makes sense. Acceptance and forgiving seems to be the key to pretty much everything.

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  10. Sasha  September 18, 2017

    I just wondered if you could clarify – you talk of negating, for example, embarrassment and shame and staying with ‘what is’, but for me a lot of my trauma is wrapped up in embarrassment and shame – I don’t understand how to negate those particular feelings?

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    • Roland  September 18, 2017

      Negation is a state of mind where you are aware of whatever is present for you without further engaging with it through reaction. If embarrassment or shame are most present first, start there, but don’t stop there so it does not engulf you. Trauma is build up out of layers. Shame and embarrassment are buffers to not be confronted with the pain which is within (it is indeed wrapped up or tied into hurt). The art is to go slowly into it and when you feel you start getting overwhelmed to disconnect consciously again as to manage your levels of tolerance. This is what I do when working with individuals. Hope this helps.

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      • Sasha  September 18, 2017

        That does help, thank you for expanding on that, and the pointers regarding not stopping at the embarrassment/shame feelings and also to dissociate if it becomes engulfing.

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      • Hele  September 19, 2017

        Yes, that helps me as well. 🙂

        reply
  11. Jo  September 18, 2017

    I found that in trying to resolve the trauma, it only becomes bigger and my need to dissociate becomes even more. Plus it actually makes me feel powerless again. Powerless when certain things happened to me and now powerless again to figure everything out. And all the blame is on me again. All the energy is drained then by repressing the past and negative thoughts or emotions instead of building the new, building the now. I found that in letting the emotions or images of the past just come when they come without trying to resolve them but to release them by crying or talking with a friend whatever necessary. The trauma moves to the past and I can continue living in the now. Even when I don’t find ‘answer’ or reasons why. I can’t fix the puzzle.

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  12. Beverly  September 18, 2017

    Hi Roland
    Memories, facts , emotions a tumultuous exhausting process to restoration. I search out the hidden often trying to mentally excavate my mind I need to retrieve all that was left behind to find me to understand those whom tortured me. To expose every secret. An arduous task trying to heal your own mind to answer your own questions to withstand the grief and hold on to the belief all wrongs will be righted thinking through the process perhaps can be a block

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  13. Chris  September 18, 2017

    By doing what you wrote of I have found a strength I did not know I had and new understanding and wisdom. And that is what now inches me out of a circular path of good moments bad moments over and over. I don’t know that I will ever be rid of residue but I have a lot better prognosis than living trigger determined.

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  14. Gerry  September 18, 2017

    Very true facing our stresses and let acceptance of our reality love us away from the sore spots. However we do need the love and sometime medications to be able to do that. Without my faith in Jesus and my wife and meds i could have never loved myself through the lovelessness of my ordeals and have survived. so i think it is important to add that sharing our pain with those who love us true (rather that making people suffer with our sufferings,) is also important part of the process. At least it was in my life.

    reply
    • Roland  September 18, 2017

      Nice contribution Gerry. Thanks.

      reply
  15. Josh  September 19, 2017

    So many years in dealing with it this makes a lot of sense. It really speaks a lot to how a patient can finally break free of needing the therapist to be an expert. i can understand my own abreactions and describe them better than anyone else.

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  16. Jo  September 20, 2017

    Hele. You might find it helpful to read Mind Works by Will Beswick that goes into a similar anology in great depth. It is a simple concept but one that is confusing until it clicks but I will try to explain. Ok. I have suffered a great deal of emotional trauma in my life culminating in severe breakdowns because I did not recognise, know how to access or process my feelings that were all mixed in with the trauma and helping me to stay stuck in the vicious cycle of suffering. I was under the impression I had to constantly think my way out of it/find answers. That was somewhat beneficial when going over the past to see what had contributed to my anxiety/depression but I even when I had acknowledged this I still could not get my mind to ever switch off. I was full of trauma from the past and constantly retraumatising myself because this constantly looking for answers had become a way of dealing with life and a misguided way to try and protect myself. E.g. I could not let go of my thoughts. Each thought became an argument in my head. For instance – I would feel tired and instead of letting that thought then go. I would then tip over into worrying – e.g. What if this gets worse? What if I don’t have the energy to get through work? Or I would have a flashback of the past and instead of thinking – oh – that was painful but then letting it go, I would try to “resolve” it by then going into “conscious” thinking and have thoughts such as “why did I have that? I should be over it by now” etc etc etc And so on and so on and so on. Reading Roland’s work and Will’s book have helped me to realise that whatever you are experiencing at each very moment is ok. There is no need to question it to death lol so now think “I feel really tired” and I might think “I will have an early night” etc but I will not go into the constant destructive thinking that used to follow. The same with the past. A traumatic memory might pop up and it will bring a punch of emotional pain but I think ouch that hurts but then not let my mind go into analysis mode. It really is a case of realising that we do not have to do anything as such to overcome trauma. Yes of course we don’t want to put ourselves in the company of people who will hurt used we might need to learn assertiveness of gain more self esteem but you do not have to fight with your mind about what are essentially ghosts of the past and if you stop adding a “secondary” reaction- gradually they fade.

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    • Hele  December 26, 2017

      Jo, I am just seeing this now, for the first time. Thanks for your insights. What you say makes sense and is timely. So I will now stop researching the pedophiles in my area (because there is not a damn thing I can do about them) and sit with the residue of the trigger.
      You see, when the trigger is a surprise, and not of my own ruminating, I find these to be the toughest of all.
      In my workplace, a child-oriented environment, a recent addition to my job is screening all adults entering the building. I begin my job at 4:45 am and I’m alone in my department until about 8:30am. This screening entails scanning the driver’s license into a sex offenders database. If a positive match occurs I tell the person about the match and insist they leave the building. This morning I had a positive match (not my first) and handled it calmly but firmly, and after some words, the person left. (I was a bit shaken, but not triggered at this point.) Built into this system is an emergency call to the directors, upon a positive match. No directors called. The system failed. I do know why I broke down sobbing 15 minutes later, and I do understand why I want to quit a job I otherwise enjoy, (I was not supported which was the trigger)and I am trying to sit with the pain rather than be engulfed by it, but I don’t know how to increase resilience because of it. (I am getting lost in my own words, I just needed to vent this, sorry for the long post)

      … Ah Ha, the “I am trying”, the “I don’t know how” is the working, not the unfolding, not the sitting with without being absorbed.

      Ok, not the day to build, but rather a day to be kind to me.

      Writing sometimes helps, especially when there is an ear to listen. Thanks

      …back to researching Pedophiles (not healthy, I know)

      reply
  17. Anita  December 31, 2017

    Gina, I was so interested to see that you are in emdr therapy, I have been having this therapy for about 18 months now and it is nice to know that I am not alone in experiencing physical pains in the process.

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  18. Petra  January 12, 2018

    Thank you. I am beginning to understand. I was not at all able to really face the pain for long .. almost 6 years . In the last year I started to try yoga .. trauma sensitive yoga, and a few months ago I became member of a Bikram Yoga Studio. I am going as often as I can, seeing it as part of my therapy. It is time spent, where I am totally with my body, it can feel, that it is good for me and changing slowly the way I feel. This probably made me ready to work with your Trauma Care Guided Audio Meditations. I can now start to face the feelings and pain that are/were so much too much. It must be a long process .. I listen to the same one many times until I start to get a deeper understanding. It makes sense. I also got your trauma ebooks and they helped me a lot in understanding about my situation. This is like a ‘turning point’ .. Thank you for making all this about PTSD accesable for people like me !

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    • Roland  January 12, 2018

      Hi Petra. Great to hear you are moving and learning. Keep going.

      reply

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